Post the 2021 T20 World Cup, India have played a total of 29 T20Is heading into this series. Australia, meanwhile, have played just nine. Irrespective of their prep, Australia might turn up in their usual confident manner at the T20 World Cup – but this time they’ll have to defend the title in their backyard. And they have quite a bit to figure out compared to their better-prepped opponents.
India WLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
All eyes will be on Tim David, who will be looking to showcase his power-hitting skills, this time in Australia colours. The Singapore-born batter has impressed in various T20 competitions, most recently in the IPL as well, and he’ll be looking to replicate his success on the international stage. His big-hitting skills aside, his ability to take on spinners and quicks alike makes him a must-have in a T20 side. He averages 32.48 with a strike rate of 164.12 in T20s. He is likely to take up the middle-order spot in Stoinis’ absence in this series. But Australia will not be able to accommodate him if both Stoinis and Marsh are fit when the World Cup begins. It’s Smith’s position that appears a bit vulnerable as of now – but he too has the reputation of being the anchor in the XI – so it remains to be seen how Australia fit David into their XI at the World Cup.
Rishabh Pant has not quite been able to live up to the expectations in the T20 format. In T20Is since 2020, he has averaged just 27.63 and has struck at 129.95 in 32 innings. At the Asia Cup, Pant had to be brought into the XI in place of Dinesh Karthik following an injury to Ravindra Jadeja as India wanted a left-hand batter in the middle. But he could only make scores of 17 and 14 against Sri Lanka and Pakistan respectively in the Super 4s. While having Pant and Karthik in the squad offers them flexibility, it looks like India can currently accommodate only one of the two in the XI. Pant will have to make use of his time in the middle in the upcoming T20Is to get back into form before the T20 World Cup.
Umesh Yadav, who was originally meant to undergo rehab for a quad injury in Bengaluru, has been called into the squad after Mohammed Shami tested positive for Covid-19. But with the return of Bumrah and Harshal, India are unlikely to play Umesh in the XI.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Rishabh Pant/ Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/ Deepak Chahar, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
With Marsh absent, Smith will bat at No. 3 against India. David looks set to make his Australia debut in the middle order. Australia are also likely to play Inglis – who has so far played at No. 3 and in the middle order in T20Is – as an opener and push Matthew Wade down the order. Cameron Green, who has been impressive with the ball and the bat, has been brought back into the T20I squad – having played a solitary match in April this year – and is also likely to find a place in the XI.
Australia (probable): 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Josh Inglis, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Matthew Wade (wk), 6 Tim David, 7 Cameron Green, 8 Adam Zampa, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Sean Abbott/ Daniel Sams
Pitch and conditions
It is expected to be partly cloudy and humid in Mohali tomorrow, with a 25% chance of precipitation in the evening. In T20s since 2018, the chasing team has won seven out of 11 matches at the ground. On the eve of the match, Finch said the wicket had “a bit of grass on it”.
“… Only we know what role is expected of each person. Everyone is trying to give their best, and not every time will a player succeed. And that is the kind of environment we have created, that players are not afraid to play, or players are not afraid to make mistakes.”
KL Rahul on constant criticism from outside
“The last thing you want to do is have an injury derail your whole campaign because you’re pigeon-holed into playing one style of cricket or one structure of team.”
Aaron Finch is open to experimenting with the XI
Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo